Oscar Buzz: Could 'Black Panther' win Best Picture?
'Black Panther' was Marvel's most significant movie in 2018, despite 'Avengers: Infinity War' drawing more crowd. It marked a major foray where superhero films started dealing with prevalent social issues and Disney has been pushing for the film to be nominated in several prestigious Oscar categories, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. Here we decode whether 'Black Panther' could win Best Picture.
The tale of the 'Black Panther'
'Black Panther' traces the story of Wakanda, the fictional Vibranium-rich African nation, under the leadership of King T'Challa or Black Panther. T'Challa must be a good ruler and rectify his father's sins, as he faces Erik Killmonger, his deceased uncle's son, who was wronged and seeks vengeance against Wakanda and white society. The film deftly explores representational politics, nationalism, and dangers of radical ideologies.
How do the chances look for 'Black Panther'?
'Black Panther' became a global sensation earning $1.35 billion. Since #OscarsSoWhite shamed the Academy for not nominating actors of color in 2015, 2016, we have seen an improvement. 'Moonlight' won Best Picture in 2017, making it the second film in 3 years to win after 2014's '12 Years a Slave'. However, 'Black Panther' has to overcome the additional hurdle of being a superhero movie.
A habit of snubbing superheroes
'Black Panther' plans to compete for Best Picture with a double handicap. Firstly, it is a black-themed movie, which makes winning the award, challenging. Moreover, it is a superhero movie, a genre traditionally snubbed for Best Film at the Academy Awards.
The voter base for 'Black Panther'
Despite the hurdles, 'Black Panther' has a significant voter base behind it. Almost 16% of the total membership in the Academy includes people of color and a strategist commented that 'the total Academy membership that's African-American is probably around 1,000 now'. Since best picture campaigns are based on voting blocs, and black Academy members already have a solid constituency, the movie's chances look good.
The competition 'Black Panther' faces
'Black Panther' faces stiff competition from films like the critically acclaimed 'Roma' by Alfonso Cuaron and 'A Star Is Born' whose formulaic story is exactly the kind the Academy loves. More importantly, it has to upstage more topical racial films like Spike Lee's 'BlacKkKlansman', which deals with America's white supremacy rising, and Barry Jenkins' 'If Beale Street Could Talk', dealing with 'Black Lives Matter'.
The strategies 'Black Panther' should follow
Firstly the film should underscore the contemporary, topical relevance without which it might meet the same fate as another popular superhero movie, 'The Dark Knight'. Secondly, Ryan Coogler should explain the broad resonance of his movie. The Academy will most likely respond favorably to the personable director. Thirdly, it should secure the support of influencers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, who penned the 'Black Panther' comics.
Attention to the message and the voter base
'Black Panther' should target below-the-line voters, the majority of Academy members, who will appreciate the movie's sound, production and costume designs. More importantly, the film should highlight its women empowerment themes, to broaden their message beyond a racial one. With a stellar cast including Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, and Letitia Wright, it should convince women voters in a post-#MeToo society to support 'Black Panther'.
The politics of revolution in 'Black Panther'
'Black Panther' explores protest culture and the dangers of nationalism. The film released in 2018, after the USA witnessed the severity of Charlottesville's clashes. It portrays Killmonger, a victim of white neo-imperialist agenda, wanting to violently bring global black supremacy. Only after defeating him, T'Challa realizes the dangers of closing Wakanda to the world (hello, Donald Trump's wall) and decides to share resources, technology.
Why we think 'Black Panther' could win
In production and costume designs, 'Black Panther' successfully visually represented Afrofuturism (black science-fiction). The Border Tribe's traditional Basotho blankets doubling as Vibranium shields, futuristic skyscrapers with thatched roofs show science and tradition merging, celebrating black culture without portraying it as regressive. The movie effortlessly includes feminism as 'Black Panther' depends on his sister, Shuri, for technology, and love interest, Nakia, is his moral compass.